Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How I Learned to Love the Greeks, Or, Why I was Wrong about 300

This is a little late in coming, but considering the amount of traffic this blog has had recently, I don’t think any of us can be too choosy.

Like I promised, I saw ‘300’. In fact, I saw it on opening day, at 3:00 P.M. in downtown D.C.. And for the most part, I was delighted by just about everything I had expected: lots of blood, some overtures to dark comedy (though not nearly enough), dreamy sets and nightmarish foes. Even a little nudity in the part of Queen Gorgo, played by Lena Headey-Lebeaux (I’m hereby instating the It’s-OK-To-Discuss-Nudity-In-Your-First-Entry-In-A-While rule, and if you disagree, then please dear god let me hear it or post your argument!).

Despite that which I boyishly anticipated, I was also slightly worried about the film’s easy East vs. West theme, one that could be quickly corrupted as a modern take on the War on Terrorism—I think I was too hasty in worrying about this: the blogosphere erupted with discussions about this very topic before the movie premiered (“Leonidas as George W?”), thereby inoculating most from (and maybe enticing some to) the awful connections between the Current Administration and the Noble Spartans, the Despotic Persians and the Fundamentalist Terrorist, and perhaps even the Corrupt Oligarchs with the Democratic Congress.

(In fact, this film already has been re-presented in some forms of political discourse, just not in the ways that I was expecting. A recent political cartoon featured in Time Magazine shows a grotesque—well, more grotesque—Vice President Cheney dressed in the Spartan’s crimson, arrow shafts protruding from his body, as one of the last men defending the White House. On the other side of the aisle [or maybe winner’s circle], Al Gore invoked the film when he visited Capitol Hill, imploring all US Senators and Representatives to stand together as ‘the 535’.)

But so far there’s really been nothing new. The film lasted the better part of a month atop the #1 spot (only to be knocked off by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last weekend), made some cash, introduced Gerard Butler to the world and dug up Faramir from Lord of the Rings (who should be in good movies, but instead opted to play the awful Monk/Q hybrid in ‘Van Helsing’).

Maybe I should have actually waited to have seen the movie, but that’s not a lot of fun. Or maybe I should have just waited for The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart to tell my opinion to me: yes, Iran got upset about this film (and probably deservingly so). But even if ‘300’ is a not-so-veiled allegory to the War on Terror, there are plenty of absolutely blatant uses of the war in everyday media. Need I invoke ‘24’? I shouldn’t been so worried about the more subtle forms of vilification/brainwashing: I should have been more worried about the parade of Baddies that simply march right pass allegory on their way to blowing something up whilst ululating.

So that allegory, while it does probably exist, isn’t something we’re not used to. But—and as Alexander W. said in response to my original post—war films are always simply about conflict. And if it’s not about the war on terror, than it has to be something.

Enter the strange interpretations of ‘300’ that have tried to torture the film (and haven’t those poor, waxed actors been tortured enough?) into some allegory of something it clearly isn’t: Wesley Morris’ review (The Boston Globe, 3/9/2007) eventually spiraled into an analysis of the film as allegory about homosexuality—his evidence: Persian emperor Xerxes wears makeup and has a private nightclub-like tent wherein certain women…erm…cavort.

This film is not about that. Were it, the Spartan Heterosexuals would be quickly undone by a fifth column back at home: the Spartan Priests are depicted as depraved and degenerate in their lusts for a young oracle, and even Queen Gorgo (again, played by Lena Headey-Lebeaux) has to, quite literally, sleep with the enemy at one point. Moreover, three hundred waxed, buffed (Jon Stewart referred to their 1800 abdominals), preening men does not make for the strongest of heterosexual stand-ins.

Assigning allegorical value to ancient wars is nothing new: J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” eventually became an allegory for whatever conflict its readers/viewers imagined it (at once the films were about nuclear proliferation, the return of traditional) Catholic values and the struggle of the Green movement). ‘300’ hardly stacks up against LOTR, but the public’s need to unveil the film’s allegory interests me. Why do they bother?

Are we trying to verify our oftentimes nerdy interest in battle movies? Or is it because modern warfare demands a more nuanced understanding, causing us to anachronistically complicate ancient (and fictional) depictions? Can’t these films just be about ancient peoples hacking and stabbing the bejesus out of each other? Can’t we all just get along with slaughter? Because I really think that that’s how the Spartans would have wanted it.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Addictions to exercize can start with simple obsessions of technique, or preoccupations with the day's happenings, or cetera.

My father raced my family (&me) down Mt. Killington in '94, when it was a snowless summer, and he was on foot and we in chairlift chairs.

Once he began swearing (Dad got awfully embarrassed the time his 7-year-old son hissed "horseshit!" in a crowded store upon stubbing his toe on a set of shelves) -- once he started swearing we knew he was okay, though he did have to limp down 600 vertical feet or so with his busted left knee.

I'm a solid runner, (though I look faster than I am) and when I and my meticulously-placed-feet come up on some overpronated dilettante, passing as quickly as possible is the only way to remain comfortable in this therapeutic routine. Doing that with our knees would mean therapy we can't afford, me and my uninsured knees.

Today I cooked a loaf of banana bread and in tandem a loaf of orange bread. I programmed in Visual Basic until my eyes got dry. My bank account is going to give me digestive problems. And some dude who looks like a marathoner fucking housed on me halfway into my route, right at the big hilltop, before the Botanical Gardens.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Big big clicker.

It's not like I'm really committed and I still can't stop what I'm doing!

I need a way out, a toning down at the least and god to just sit and drink a chocolate milk or something with the Simpsons muted is all it would take, if I could pull it off to do that forever.

"Hey, John."

"Oh, hi, Nate. I didn't see you there. This infinitely filled glass of Hershey's chocolate syrp in milk is really hard to peer around. And the silent cartoon in the sky washes out a lot of the other colors."

"Nice setup. So what are you up to?"

I will also have thought-controlled lightning bolts.

My couch is bigger than the horizon and I've been thinking of turning off my phone so you can't call me back.

A mother told me in high school that after you give birth you forget how much it hurt you, probably so you'll get pregnant again. --And that you remember it all in a moment when you're pushing out subsequent children.

That pain is a secret, is depth, only relates to itself and to you. To be fair, she didn't say that last bit, but I've got stuff I'm trying to keep out of mind.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mostly terror.

Read these two articles with each other. Their suppositions comingle in a very unsettling way. One. Two.

This is a story that must be followed. Absolutely brilliant.